Everything You Need to Know About Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Early Childhood Center

As a parent, you naturally want the best care and supervision for your child. In New York City, there are a dizzying number of childcare options available, but what makes The Early Childhood Center at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue stand out?

Countless studies have shown that positive learning during a child’s early, formative years, when brain development is at its peak, can have long-term benefits.

Since its establishment in 1949, the ECC has been committed to instilling the values of progressive education, providing creative play- based experiences, and fostering a strong Jewish identity in every student from a young age.

“At the ECC, children are valued as capable and competent members of the community,” says ECC director Miriam Kalmar. “As educators, we provide opportunities for children to learn more about the world around them as they teach us how to view the ordinary with wonder and joy.” This teaching style is based on the philosophy of world- renowned schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where students are taught to develop their own perspectives and express themselves through empowering activities.


SWFS starts its early childhood programming with Seeds of Wonder, a “grown-up and me” morning class for children between 12 and 22 months and their caregivers. These young, budding minds are introduced to socializing, movement, song, and celebrations of Shabbat and holidays. Synagogue membership is not required.

Following is the 2s program, where each child transitions from the home environment to school and becomes comfortable trusting their teachers. The two-year-olds learn hands on through experimenting with sensory materials like sand, water, clay, play dough, puzzles and science equipment. Music and cooking are regular activities and are incorporated into the celebration of Jewish holidays.

Because three-year-olds begin to advance in their vocabulary and string sentences together, the 3s program focuses on reinforcing social and expressive language skills. Additionally, advanced activities, such as art, photography, sculpture, and woodworking, are included on a weekly basis.

Students in the 4s and 5s program are beginning to understand more about the world around them — resulting in increased exploration and analysis. The ECC’s small and resourceful classrooms allow them to grow at their own pace and explore new areas of the curriculum in groups or individually. And a full children’s library with a dedicated library specialist will help quench their thirst for knowledge.

Every ECC classroom is led by a teacher who either holds or is working towards a master’s degree. The teachers prioritize individual needs, so you can rest assure your child will receive personalized attention and care from them and, if needed, the school’s consulting psychologist.

Creativity runs free in the art studio, where a full-time studio arts teacher sits beside each child as they paint and craft. The light-filled studio overlooks a terrace housing the ECC’s state-of-the-art playground, equipped with age-appropriate climbing equipment and a gardening space run by an environmental educator. In the winter months and on rainy days, supervised play is moved to the whimsical indoor playroom.

And the fun doesn’t end with the school year: If you’re looking for a great Jewish summer camp that’ll keep your little ones entertained (while also giving you some peace and quiet) look no further than the ECC’s summer camp for 2 to 4-year-olds. Your child will have access to the school’s facilities including its playgrounds and art studio, and will engage in outdoor gardening, weekly Shabbat celebrations and more. The camp is open to both students and non- students.

Since safety is SWFS’s utmost priority, professional security guards are posted in the lobby at all times and security cameras are placed throughout the building.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Early Childhood Center, schedule a tour here or register to attend a November 29 open house here.

Also, if you and your little ones like to hop, dance, jump and sing, check out Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Tot Shabbat! The next one is taking place on December 2 (more details here).

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